Robert Ian Jones

Robert Ian Jones is an associate professor of English and  adviser for The Breeze at Chaffey College’s Fontana campus.

I thought Traci Lowenthal’s commentary (Friday, April 7) in support of flying the pride flag for LGBT Pride Month in June was well reasoned and thoughtful. But mostly I was impressed by the fact that she argued in good faith. Arguing in good faith means being open and honest about one’s position and goals, and, as I tell my students, it is key to moving beyond hopeless squabbling. In order for reasonable adults to engage in productive arguments, everyone needs to come to the table prepared to engage in good faith.

And to be honest, the fact I was impressed by Lowenthal’s good faith arguments is sad. It’s sad because it speaks volumes about the bad faith with which so many opponents to LGBT rights and representation bring to the public discourse. It’s no surprise that commentaries about the pride flag would elicit responses, and it is also—alas!—no surprise that the responses were messy examples of bad faith and dog whistles.

In Gloria Durgin’s letter to the editor (April 14), the author starts off well enough. They describe the symbolic nature of flags (Benedict Anderson would be proud!) and they even title their letter “flags should represent everyone.”

So far, so good. Maybe the author is going to discuss how we are responsible for creating a more inclusive and safe society for everyone through our willingness to celebrate all members of our society through symbolic gestures. But rather than continue along this logical path, our author uses some familiar dog whistles to police the borders of heteronormativity.

The author writes that we, those reading this paper, are all “residents of the U.S., California, and Redlands,” so we all love the flag, but we do not all agree with “certain behaviors and lifestyles.”

There is an attack on LGBT people here disguised as a kind of neutral tolerance. LGBT folks are clearly depicted? as the outsider, the other, and it’s their fault — their “lifestyles” — they are in this position.

There is no mention, mind you, of the fact that the POW/MIA flag flies all the time on the flagpole. I might not be crazy about the “certain lifestyles” this promotes, but I’m calling for it to be pulled down.

In Jay Zercher’s commentary from the same issue, I found an even bigger mess of right-wing dog whistle and bad faith misdirection. Their piece starts with a rosy picture of the Redlands of yore, which was apparently “apolitical.” I wonder if the closeted LGBT folks living in the area in 1980 would agree?

The messy letter then recites the favorite ring-wing, grievance politics talking point that inclusion means discrimination. It is only people who maintain power by excluding others who see the inclusion of LGBT folks this way. Just like Durgin, Zercher needs to police the boundaries of heteronormativity and does so wedding bigotry to patriotism.

Ironically, Zercher, in their penultimate paragraph which aims to stir patriotic fervor in the reader, urges the reader to listen to Whitney Houston singing the national anthem and Ray Charles playing “America the Beautiful” with no recognition that black Americans have long been discriminated against, and the MAGA types throughout American history have always tried to deny them their place in the symbolic celebration of what our society means.

And this brings me back to my point about bad faith.

Both Zercher and Durgin want the reader to believe that they are putting forth reasonably tolerant positions — they just want the flag to represent “everyone” and leave “special interest groups” out of it, gosh darn it!

They just want Mayberry back. But once you start down the garden path with them and take a good look at the flowers, you see the homophobia hiding in plain sight.

Worse, you see how patriotism means, for them, deliberately excluding those who don’t fit into the Christian Nationalist worldview. I actually think the bad faith here is good — the Zerchers and Durgins of the world know they cannot openly express their hate — they need to obfuscate and misdirect — while the Lowenthal’s and Joneses can openly and full-throated call for the rainbow flag to fly.

is an associate professor of English and adviser for The Breeze at Chaffey College’s Fontana campus.